Naoroji was born at Bombay on 4 September 1825,
in a priestly Parsi family. His father was Naoroji
Palanji, and his mother Manekbai, who shaped and
moulded Dadabhais mind and character from
his early childhood. Manekbai became a widow when
Dadabhai was barely four years old. Despite her
misfortune and in the face of several hardships,
she gave of her best to bring up and educate her
son. She gave him the best education and thus
moulded him into the type of man Dadabhai later
grew to be.
Dadabhai has himself stated, She made me
what I am. Dadabhai married early when he
was only in his eleventh year. His wife, Gulabi,
who was barely seven at the time, was the daughter
of Shorabji Shroff. He had three children, one
son and two daughters.
Dadabhai had his early schooling in a primary
institution run by a Mehtaji at Bombay. On its
completion, Manekbai, as urged by Mehtaji, sent
her son to the Elphinstone Institution, Bombay,
for his secondary education. This was followed
by a course of studies at the Elphinstone College.
Dadabhais performance here was outstanding,
and in 1840 he obtained the Clare Scholarship.
He became a graduate in 1845. In 1916, he was
awarded the Honorary degree of LL.B. by the
On 27 June 1855 he left for London to join
business as a partner in Camas firm in
London. Four years later he started his own
firm, having returned to India in the meantime,
He travelled back and forth on business between
India and England during 1865 to 1876. In 1886
he went to England to contest for election to
Parliament and in 1907 to espouse the cause
of the freedom on India from British rule.
Foreign travel left its mark on his character
and personality. Himself a product of liberal
western education, he was an admirer of the
western system of education. He sent his daughter
abroad for medical education. His son, Adi,
was taken to London at the age of 5 and was
put to school there. Dadabhai believed that
India had cause to be grateful to the British
for introducing the western system of education
in India and he helped several Indian students
who went to England for higher studies.
Books and friends added their contribution
to the flowering of his personality. Shahnama
of Firdausi, Improvement of Mind
by Watt, the works of Carlyle, Mill and Herbert
Spencer, to name a few, made a deep impression
on him, His constant companion was The
Duties of the Zoroastrians, which stressed
pure thoughts, pure speech and pure deed.
His friends among foreigners were innumerable.
They started with Professor Orlebar of the Elphinstone
College who hailed Dadabhai as the promise
of India, and Sir Erskine Perry, the Chief
Justice of the Bombay Supreme Court, who was
so struck by Dadabahais academic distinction
that he suggested that he should be sent to
England. He was willing to pay half the expenses
provided the community was prepared to share
the other half. Later, he helped Dadabhai on
the Civil Service issue.
Samuel Smith, a leading cotton merchant was
impressed by Dadabhais character and became
a close friend and partner in Dadabhais
fight for the freedom of India. Allan Hume,
the founder of the Indian National Congress,
was another friend. So too were Sir W. Wedderburn
Martin Wood, the Editor of the Times of India,
who supported Dadabhais candidature to
Parliament, Henry Mayers Hyndmann a British
Socialist, Major Evans Bell of the Madras Staff
Corps, Sir George Birdwood, Sheriff of Bombay,
Charles Bradlaugh, M.P., W.S. Caine and W.A.
Chambers. The bond that united them with Dadabhai
was love for India and a keen desire to understand
In India, his friends included Sorabjee Bengali
the social reformer, Khursetji Cama, Kaisondas
Mulji, K.R. Cama, the Orientalist, Naoroji Furdonji,
Jamesdji Tata, and some Indian Princes. Among
his younger friends were R.G. Bhandarkar, the
Orientalist, N.G. Chandavarkar, the nationalist
reformer, Pherozeshah Mehta, G.K. Gokhale, Dinshaw
Wacha and M.K. Gandhi.
Soon after graduation in 1845, he was appointed
as the Native Head Assistant at the Elphinstone
Institute, Bombay. In 1850 he became an Assistant
Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy
at the Elphinstone College, Bombay. He was the
first Indian to be appointed Professor at this
College. He taught in the special classes held
for the spread of womens education. In
March 1856, he was nominated as Professor of
Gujarati in the University College, London,
a post he continued to hold till 1865-66. During
this period Dadabhai took a keen interest in
and laboured hard for the spread of education.
In 1855-56, he became a business partner and
took charge of the London Branch of Cama and
Co., and also became a member of the Manchester
Cotton supply Association, Further, he took
an active part in the deliberation of the Council
of Liverpool, the Athenaeum and the National
In 1865 he founded, along with W.C. Bonnerjee,
the London India Society and became its President.
He continued as President till 1907, when he
returned to India. Thereafter, till his death
he remained as its Honorary President.
In 1861 he established the London Zoroastrian
Association. In 1862 he separated from Cama
and Co., and started his own business in the
name of Dadabhai Naoroji & Co. On 1December
1866 he founded the East India Association,
London, whose scope for activity was wider,
and became its Secretary.
In 1974 he was appointed the Dewan of Baroda
and a year later, on account of differences
with the Maharaja and the Resident, he resigned
the Dewanship. In July 1875 he was elected a
Member of the Municipal Corporation, Bombay,
and in September of the same year, he was elected
to the Town Council of the Corporation. In 1876
he resigned and left for London. He was appointed
as Justice of the Peace in 1883 and was elected
to the Bombay Municipal Corporation for the
second time. In August 1885 he joined the Bombay
Legislative Council at the invitation of the
Governor, Lord Reay.
On 31 January 1885, when the Bombay Presidency
Association came into being, he was elected
as one of its Vice-Presidents. At the end of
the same year, he took a leading part in the
founding of the Indian National Congress and
became its President thrice, in 1886, 1893 and
During this period, he was engaged in other
important activities. In 1873 he gave evidence
before the Parliamentary Committee on Indian
Finance, the Fawcett Committee, which was appointed
through his efforts. Here he sought to prove
that the incidence of taxation in India was
very high, while the average income of an Indian
was barely Rs. 20/-.
In 1883 he had started a newspaper called the
Voice of India.
In 1887 he gave evidence before the Public Service
1902 he was elected as a Member of the Liberal
Party in the House of Commons, representing
Central Finsbury. He was a firm believer in
parliamentary democracy and he thought that
he should espouse the cause of Indian freedom
on the floor of the Commons.
In 1897 he was appointed a Member of the Royal
Commission on Indian Expenditure Kinden known
as the Welby Commission. He gave evidence as
a witness before this Commission in 1897, and
in 1898 he submitted his views in the form of
two statements to the Indian Currency Commission.
In 1905 he represented India at the International
socialist Congress at Amsterdam. Dadabhai was
frequent contributor of articles and papers
to various journals and magazines. He wrote
regularly for the Students Literary Miscellany,
a journal started by the students Literary and
Scientific Society at the Elphinstone College,
Bombay, which was founded in 1850. He himself
edited his societys Gujarati journal the
Dnyan Prakash. In 1889, along with a few collaborators,
he started the Rast Goftar (Truth Teller), a
Gujarati weekly which was known for its advanced
and progressive views, and edited it for two
In 1883 he started the Voice of India in Bombay
and later incorporated it into the Indian Spectator.
He contributed articles to newspapers and magazines
in England like the Commerce, the India, the
Contemporary Reviews,the Daily News, the Manchester
Guardian, the Weekly News and Chronicle and
the Pearsons Magazine. The Gujarati paper
Samachar Darpan published a series of articles
by him entitled Dialogues of Socrates
In 1878 he published a pamphlet, Poverty
of India, later revised and enlarged in
the form of a book published in 1901 from London,
under the title Poverty and un-British
Rule in India. He is known in the history of
Indian economic thought for his pioneering work
in assessing Indias national income, Under
the title Dadabhai Naorojis Speeches
and Writings, G.A. Natesan & Co.,
Madras, Published various learned papers which
he wrote and read before different societies.
Under the title The Right of Labour
Dadabhai had formulated and published a scheme
for the establishment of Industrial Commissioners
course and for the recognition of labours
right to protection. If passed into law, it
would have ensured justice to all wage earners
and industrial peace.
He founded the Framji Institute after he left
India for London to join business, the Irani
Fund, the Parsi Gymnasium, the Widow Remarriage
Asociation and the Victoria and Albert Museum,
1851. He founded several important organizations
and belonged to many leading societies and institutions,
both in India and the U.K. Some of the important
organisations which he helped to found are the
Indian National Congress, the East Indian Association
London, the Royal Asiatic Society of Bombay
and so on.
In personal life Dadabhai was simple, dignified
and of a helpful disposition. His letters, which
he wrote in his own hand, are revealing and
bring out the truth-loving and warm-hearted
character that he was. He was a lover of books
and he presented his vast library to the Bombay
He was a leading social reformer of the second
half of the nineteenth century. He did not believe
in caste restrictions and was a pioneer of womens
education and an upholder of equal laws for
men and women. Having been a teacher himself
of girls, he realized the importance of girls
education. He stressed the importance of primary
A keen Zoroastrian, but catholic in outlook,
with friends among non-Parsis, like Hume, Wedderburn,
Badrudin-Tyabji, Dr. Bhau Daji, K.T.Telang,
G.K.Gokhale, he exuded the need for purity in
thought, speech and action in his book The
Duties of the Zoroastrians.
He was a prominent nationalist of progressive
views. He prefaced his Calcutta Congress (1906)
speech by quoting Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman:
Good government could never be a substitute
for government by the people themselves.
In the same speech he declared: We do
not ask any labour, we want only justice. The
whole matter can be compressed in one word,
'Self-Government' or Swaraj like
that of the United Kingdom or the Colonies.
He belonged to the school of moderates, and
was a great believer in constitutional methods.
He as well-informed about international politics.
He contrasted in detail the condition of Ireland
with that of India in their financial relations
with Britain. He was concerned about the South
He was a strong critic of British financial
administration of India. He complained about
the lack of proper distribution of expenditure
in the costliest administration of India.
To Britains financial exploitation, he
ascribed epidemics like plague, famine, etc,
because Government seldom spent an adequate
sum to organise preventive measures.
In economics, he believed in self-sufficiency
and the importance of cottage industries. He
declared: Swadeshi is a forced necessity
for India in its unnatural economic muddle.
As long as the economic condition remains unnatural
. The talk of applying
economic laws to the condition remains unnatural
.the talk of applying
economic laws to the condition on India is adding
insult to injury. Although he was a champion
of Swadeshi, he was not against the use of machines
for organising key industries in the country.
He urged Tata to raise Indian capital for his
iron and steel plants.
Dadabhai was a great public speaker, both in
English and in Gujarati. His speeches were remarkable
for their simplicity and forcefulness.
Known as The grand old man of India,
Dadabhai Naoroji was a great public figure during
1845-1917. He was in the forefront of the Social
Reform Movement. He was indefatigable in his
efforts to lift Indian women from their backwardness
and channelise the energies of young men who
had received the benefits of western education
in wholesome directions.
Dadabhai was universally acknowledged to be
honest, impartial and fair. When a dispute arose
between the Parsi priests of Udwada and Navsari,
he was selected to be the sole arbitrator of
His forte, however, was Finance. The appointment
of the parliamentary committee in 1873 to inquire
into Indian Finance was due to his untiring
He was a patriot and a nationalist of a high
order. India was constantly in his thoughts.
As Dinshaw Wacha said: By universal consent,
he has been acclaimed as the Father of Indian
Politics and Economics. Through the innumerable
societies and organisations with which he was
associated and his contributions to organs of
public opinion, he voiced the grievances of
the Indian people and proclaimed their aims,
ideals and aspirations to the world at large.
He won with effortless ease high distinction
on many fronts and will always be remembered
in the history of the national movement.